Regulars and Shorts

Animalia: April 2012

By catalyst

Ideas, profiles, products & news for all things animal. 

Your creatures and the garden

Plants, soil, water, sun. What better place for a dog or cat to dig and chew, tear things up, and run around? Wait, it’s your garden we’re talking about! There is no easy fool-proof system to keep your cat or dog out, however, the following tips will help you remain sane as your pet negotiates its way through the garden.

  • Cats don’t like to walk on bristly or uncomfortable material. Ugly but easy: Lay chicken wire on top of your soil before you plant. You can also mulch your garden bed with sharp-edged pine cones, if you have a small garden and live near a large forest.
  • Dogs and cats don’t like the smell of Coleus canina, also known as the scaredy cat plant. Other plants with unpopular scents are rue, lavender and pennyroyal.
  • A very effective tool is the Scarecrow Sprinkler. It detects and sends a blast of water toward your carouser (and we know how popular water sprays are for dogs and cats).
  • Spread orange, grapefruit or lemon peels around plants to act as natural repellents.

And now for the payoff—for your pets, that is: Their very own kitty/dog garden that will distract them from crashing yours! For cats, plant a separate bed of catnip plants for hours of play. Plant wheat and oat grass which they love to nibble on. And create a sandbox to play in (mind you, it will need cleaning often, but it’s better than cat poop near the veggies).

If your dog likes to dig, try a sandbox for her as well, and work on training to dig just in that. I’ve heard of burying dog poop where you don’t want digging, but that won’t work if it’s around your plants, and they’ll just go somewhere else to dig. Which brings me to:

Composting dog/cat poop? Unfortunately there’s no recycling these babies. Carnivore/omnivore poop does not equal herbivore manure—they’re a very different thing. Too many pathogens and nasties to get rid of in our meat-eating pets.

We haven’t yet tried this at CATALYST but we’ve heard interesting things about the Doggie Dooley, a sort of bin with a lid that you bury in your yard (lid exposed). It reduces waste to a ground-absorbed liquid, controls odors and keeps insects away.

Now you’ve got quite the project on your hands this spring. When you plant your own garden, design your pet’s garden while you’re at it and you’ll both be saner for it.

Babes in the woods (and elsewhere): What to do

Spring is the season for wild babies, and some run into problems and need human assistance, but how do you know when that’s the case and what to do?

If a mammal is found alone with siblings, most likely everything is fine and mom should be back soon. If it appears that a lone baby is injured or abandoned, it’s best to leave them where they are and call the Department of Wildlife Services (DWR) with the location.

Birds are different: If they are featherless, they are completely dependent on their parents. And if you find one without feathers on the ground, with or without siblings—as often happens after heavy winds—put them back into their nest. If that’s not possible, create a ‘fake’ nest and place it off the ground and away from predators. Wives’ tale alert: Touching the birds will not cause their parents to reject them.

Birds that are learning to fly (fledglings) probably don’t need any assistance but this can seem confusing as they crash and stumble their way through their first experiences in flight. Just watch them and make sure they don’t appear to be injured.

Don’t try to rehabilitate any birds or mammals you may find. Instead, contact appropriate officials such as DWR and they will tell you where to find a certified Wildlife Rehabilitator near you. Though you may have good intentions, trying to save a wild baby yourself may mean the difference between it finding its way back to where it belongs or possible death.

801-538-4700 or Thanks to wild life rehabilitation expert, Debbie Souza Pappas for her sound advice.


Read: Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know by Alexandra Horowitz. A surprisingly intuitive read of dogs’ inner souls by a scientist. Horowitz cautions against anthropomorphizing dogs and instead to understand them for the canines they really are.

Watch: Madonna of the Mills. Considering the subject matter, this is actually an uplifting documentary about a woman who infiltrates the puppy mill industry in Pennsylvania. Laura Amato rescues 2,000 dogs from one of the worst puppy mills areas in the country (Pennsylvania ranks 5th worst for this after Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma). Watch her journey as she visits the mills and asks for retired breeders and unsold puppies who are then placed in permanent homes.

Wild News:

There are reports that the Salt Lake City peregrine falcon adults have been in the area around the nest box at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown SLC. The cameras should be online in early to mid-April.

This article was originally published on March 30, 2012.